Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Reading Through History: A Bone From a Dry Sea by Peter Dickinson (1992)

A Bone From a Dry Sea is a 1992 Carnegie Medal winning middle grade novel with a dual timeline. In the past, Li, a primitive young woman in a prehistoric tribe, begins to imagine beyond her culture's current capabilities. In the present day, Vinny, the daughter of an archeaologist  accompanies her father to work on a dig and must contend with the oppressive behavior of his difficult boss.

While this book has an interesting premise, the execution mostly fell flat for me. The segments of the story set in prehistoric times are well-written and engaging, but their connection to the present isn't developed that well. The present-day chapters don't delve as much into actual archaeology work as they do into the inter-personal relationships of the characters. There's the tension between Vinny's divorced parents, as well the question of whether Vinny's dad's coworker is his girlfriend, and the overbearing tendencies of Vinny's dad's boss. With all of these issues commanding attention, there isn't much room left to contemplate the implications of any of the archaeology work that is accomplished. The story ends without a strong sense of what the reader is meant to take away from it. The ending is also so abrupt, it feels like there is no conclusion to the story.

Since we own The Dream Time by Henry Treece, which explores prehistoric society in a beautifully poetic way, and the present-day section of this book is so weak, I don't really see a reason to assign this in our homeschool. If my oldest daughter continues to show an interest in archaeology, however, I would like to find a better novel that explores archaeology without all of the side plots. 

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